Articles

White guilt and african american culture defining America

In art, business, church, culture, design, faith, Theology, work on November 10, 2011 by mstevensrev

It seemed unusual but I gave a presentation in Orlando, FL in 2003 to a classroom of pastors in training titled, “Why you should care about Eminem.”  In it my partner and I traced the thread of influence from the Negro Spiritual to Jazz to Blues to R&B and to Hip Hop as significant influencers of spiritual music, or as Jon Michael Spencer formerly Duke University refers to it Black Sacred Music.  While appropriate for that audience the scope was far too limited, since the practice of American slavery as a oppressed people group African Americans have had greater influence then most realize, the clearest moment I point to is what is known as the Harlem Renaissance .

So this week I watched two interviews that sparked my passions on this topic one again first from the Harvard Business Review titled, The Tanning of America, interview with Steve Stoute.  Perhaps it is my sensitivity but throughout the interview I feel the weight and appreciate Senior Editor Scott Berinato interviewing and awkwardness in using the term Tanning, it both highlights but also takes some of the power out of the white guilt associated with many similar conversations.  That is an aside to the meat of the interview is when Steve Stoute discusses the Madison Square Garden performance of RunDMC.  How they were not only changing music, fashion, but global culture.  The significance that an executive from Adidas had vision in that moment is beautifully redeeming.

For those who have not heard the story, one of our cultures most successful and popular actors Will Smith was deeply influencing by RunDMC. When asked why he got into rap as The Fresh Prince, Smith answered that he saw the video of Run DMC doing a stadium concert in Japan when during the concert they told everyone to hold up their Adidas.  Smith said seeing the influence these guys had over 20,000+ Japanese fans in that moment made him want to get into it.  For those who don’t know the picture in this post is of my current version of the shoes which I grew up with in Baltimore and there is a collectors addition commemorating  the 25th  anniversary of the song My Adidas, available.

The other interview that got me thinking this week was from Inc. with Russell Simmons.  Russell is one of the great culture leaders in our country and the world, this interview also gives him the opportunity to talk about his deep spiritual side to his life and ventures.  He does have one great story he tells about LL Cool J and a commercial for The Gap. Sometimes the most powerful culture changers are clearly in your face but so transcendent that you cannot even see them, and for America there is a great responsibility for it’s citizens to respond to such a beautiful and tragic influence that has so deeply shaped us.

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